Tag Archives: critique

Elements of a Good Critique Partnership – A Repeat

Since I’m on the topic of Beta Readers, I thought I’d replay a post I did a while back about critique partners.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am very fortunate. I have an awesome critique partner. Melinda won’t hesitate to tell me when I’ve gotten it right, and at the same time she’ll tell me when I’m stinking up the page. I like to think I offer the same to her. What makes our partnership work? There are many factors involved in finding the right critique match, but here are just a few things that work for us.

First, and most important, is trust. Without that you’re finished before you start. You’re putting your work in your partner’s hands in the hopes of receiving honest feedback and help in improving not just your manuscript, but also your overall craft. Bottom line trust is vital.

Complimentary skill sets are a plus. Both Melinda and I bring something different to the table. Things that I tend to be completely escape my notice she’ll pick up on and vice versus.

Have a thick skin. Being in the publishing industry, you’re going to need one anyway. You’re going to need to be able to take constructive criticism whether it comes from your critique partner or your editor. On the other hand, a good critique partner won’t try and tear you down or make you feel bad about your work. A good critique partnership is about mutual respect and honest input.

Be honest with each other. When I send pages to Melinda, I’ll tell her to tear it to shreds. Why? First, because the only way I’ll improve the story and my skills is if I have someone combing through it with a critical eye. Second, I know that the dissection will be done thoughtfully and with respect. Third, because she may have suggestions that would never occurred to me.

You don’t have to write in the same genre, but it helps to be a familiar with the genre your partner writes. A critique partner who is not familiar with your genre may be able to offer suggestions on the basic technical skills of writing, but not the nuances of the genre.

Communication is key. If you don’t feel that you can offer a helpful critique you need to let your partner know. For example, I write M/M romance. I realize it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Before I started sending chapters to Melinda or before I send to a Beta reader I let them know up front the nature of the story. I never want to send someone something they are not comfortable reading. Also, if life has gotten crazy, you need to let your partner know what kind of turn around time you can give them.

Celebrate each other’s accomplishments and be supportive when disappointments happen. Your partner will most likely be the one you turn to when things happen along your publication journey. It’s nice to have someone one to support you who also understands what you’re going through.

These are just a few suggestions of what makes a good critique partner. Do you have any other to add to the list?

~Rayna

Advertisements

Finding Your Writing Voice

I began my writing journey over ten years ago and from the get go I submersed myself in learning and refining my craft. Even then, I heard talk about ‘finding your writing voice,’ but didn’t pay it much attention. I mean, I was too busy trying to learn how to write a book : )  I read every romance and women’s fiction that I could get my hands on, and joined a critique group.

Then I started to attend conferences and saying I was overwhelmed, well that’s putting it mildly. A few years passed, and I found workshops no longer exhausted and overwhelmed me. Instead, I actually began taking away information that I could apply to my own writing projects. I thought, hey, my book is good, but it can be so much better, so I used what I learned. I entered contests and received some great feedback. I pitched to editors and although they rejected my projects, I often received nice, detailed letters encouraging me to revise and resubmit.

On some of the revision letters I was told to take my writing to the next level—the story flows, now add some personality and give the book flavor. Now, some writer’s sell their very first book, or even their second. Some go on to win awards and become NYTimes bestsellers right off the bat. I’m not one of those writers. Everything I’ve ever wanted I’ve had to work hard for. Ahhh, but that’s another blog for another day : )

Anyway,  I wondered about what the editors had said, what it meant to take my writing to the next level, so I talked to as many published writers as I could and they all told me the same thing. Relax and trust in your skills, it will happen. But I was still frustrated. It doesn’t help that I’m the kind of person who hates to wait. What did they mean, relax? I kept thinking, when will it happen? Where is this voice I’m supposed to have and why is it so hard to find?  Not until I pushed the thought from my mind–when I said enough of this frustration and trying to find something I don’t know how to find, did I truly relax. And what do you know…

I had my ‘aha’ moment a few weeks later when I was reading a chapter I’d written out loud to myself. I liked what I was hearing and somehow it seemed different than my other books. My dialogue was more conversational–my characters witty and real. I caught myself laughing at these people I’d written–what they were doing, and why.

I added my personality, made my characters endearing, quirky and appealing, and it was then, not until I was well into my fourth book, that my writing voice took form. I found that by giving my characters the opportunity to become real people reader’s want to relate to, my writing voice flowed freely.

It’s funny, I’ve heard that when you read your book, the emotions you feel are the emotions the reader will feel, but somehow I didn’t get it until it happened to me. Right there in the quiet of my own little office on a day I will never forget, I found the voice that had probably been there all alone. I just didn’t know how to coax it to come on out and play : )

Best,

Cathy Tully

Collaboration. Is It For You?

If someone asked me five years ago whether I’d ever consider co-writing a book/short story with another author I’d probably have said no, because being the insecure writer I was, I didn’t think I had the skill set necessary for a collaboration. At the time, I viewed writing as a solitary endeavor. A mind bending, hair pulling, harder than heck task writer’s prefer to experience alone.

But over the past few years, I’ve attended conferences and listened to writers talk about collaborating together like Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer. And I thought, well, yeah, she’s Jen Crusie, who wouldn’t jump at the chance to write with her? Thank goodness with time, most of us change, grow, and open our minds to opportunities that we would once have dismissed.

The end result: my critique partner, and I are co-writing a novella we hope to sell sometime this year. It’s an urban fantasy, a genre, I’ve never read or given much thought to before this project. After all, I  write romance, sweet and contemporary, and urban fantasy is on the other side of the football field in writing, but after discussing it, we decided to give this co-writing thing a whirl.

Of course, we started with an outline, which we changed, revised, and changed some more, until we were both happy with the end result.  Mixing my partner’s strong editing abilities and use of emotion with my inane ability to throw down a humorous scene with sensitive characters has been a blast, and I think I can speak for both of us when I say we are having the time of our lives.

The characters in this novella are a bit eccentric, but that’s what makes this project so much fun. I’m finding that exploring a new genre is also affecting my other writing projects in that I return to them excited. This excitement increases my productivity and imagination. Although I’ve always been one of those writer’s who can work on two projects at one time, I didn’t find bouncing in and out of those books a complete brain reset like I do when switching genres.

And here’s the best part. I don’t need mental health days as often as I used to when my muse decides to go MIA.  Light bulb moment. . .maybe I’ve confused my muse. Maybe I’ve taken away her ability to rationalize, become frustrated and abandon me because jumping in and out of genre’s keeps her on her toes?

Or maybe, and more importantly, I’ve supplied her with the diversity that fuels her inner writer. Hey, I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, either way, this genre jumping is working for me and I’m grateful for that.

Have you ever thought about co-writing with someone?  Are you currently working on a project with another author and how is that going for both of you?

Best,

Cathy Tully

Elements of a Good Critique Partnership

I am very fortunate. I have an awesome critique partner. Melinda won’t hesitate to tell me when I’ve gotten it right, and at the same time she’ll tell me when I’m stinking up the page. I like to think I offer the same to her. What makes our partnership work? There are many factors involved in finding the right critique match, but here are just a few things that work for us.

First, and most important, is trust. Without that you’re finished before you start. You’re putting your work in your partner’s hands in the hopes of receiving honest feedback and help in improving not just your manuscript, but also your overall craft. Bottom line trust is vital.

Complimentary skill sets are a plus. Both Melinda and I bring something different to the table. Things that I tend to be completely escape my notice she’ll pick up on and vice versus.

Have a thick skin. Being in the publishing industry, you’re going to need one anyway. You’re going to need to be able to take constructive criticism whether it comes from your critique partner or your editor. On the other hand, a good critique partner won’t try and tear you down or make you feel bad about your work. A good critique partnership is about mutual respect and honest input.

Be honest with each other. When I send pages to Melinda, I’ll tell her to tear it to shreds. Why? First, because the only way I’ll improve the story and my skills is if I have someone combing through it with a critical eye. Second, I know that the dissection will be done thoughtfully and with respect. Third, because she may have suggestions that would never occurred to me.

You don’t have to write in the same genre, but it helps to be a familiar with the genre your partner writes. A critique partner who is not familiar with your genre may be able to offer suggestions on the basic technical skills of writing, but not the nuances of the genre.

Communication is key. If you don’t feel that you can offer a helpful critique you need to let your partner know. For example, I write M/M romance. I realize it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Before I started sending chapters to Melinda or before I send to a Beta reader I let them know up front the nature of the story. I never want to send someone something they are not comfortable reading. Also, if life has gotten crazy, you need to let your partner know what kind of turn around time you can give them.

Celebrate each other’s accomplishments and be supportive when disappointments happen. Your partner will most likely be the one you turn to when things happen along your publication journey. It’s nice to have someone one to support you who also understands what you’re going through.

These are just a few suggestions of what makes a good critique partner. Do you have any other to add to the list?

~Rayna

Your Action, Critiqued

Two weeks ago, we asked for brave souls to submit their 500-word action scene for critique on our blog.  We’d like to thank everyone who submitted an entry.  The chosen submission came from a novice writer who asked to remain anonymous.

Genre: Paranormal Romance (Time-travel)

The set up: The heroine is a modern day cop who time traveled to the mid 1800s.  She just entered her friend’s house moments after slave hunters raped the friend.

“You challengin’ me?”  Hooch laughed and released the hammer.  “Very well, I accept.”  He placed the gun behind him on the sideboard.  “I love a good fight, it makes the takin’ sweeter.  Don’t disappoint me, little girl.”  He took a step toward her.

Beth didn’t move.

“Aint you gonna run?  I like a good chase.”

“This is your last chance to leave.”

He laughed and took another step closer.

She didn’t budge.

Hooch jumped over the kitchen table.

She sidestepped him and he fell into the china cabinet.  Rufus made a move for her but Hooch got up quick and called him off.  “Your purty fast for little thing.”

Beth put up her hands, ready to defend herself.

The man laughed again.  “You want to box me?”  He swung a right hook to her face but she blocked it and punched him in the gut.  He stumbled backward.

“Git her, Hooch!”  Rufus cheered.

He charged, an outstretched arm speeding its way to her throat.

A hard, swift kick to his shin and a simultaneous parry of his arm caused his hand to miss its intended target.  Without missing a beat she stepped in so they were calf to calf intending to take him down with a leg sweep.  But his size and strength made it impossible to move him.  He punched her face and threw her against the wall.

She cried out in pain and used the wall for support.

He smiled.  “That’s more like it.”

She waited for him to come to her.  When he was nearly on top of her, she kneed him in the groin.  He doubled over.  She locked her hands together in a fist and brought them down on the back of his neck.  Falling to the floor, he wheezed and gasped for air.

Beth turned to get the gun but ran directly into the solid chest of Rufus.  She made to run the other way but he grabbed her around the waist pinning her arms to her sides.  “Looky what I got here.”

“Hold her tight, Rufus.  I’m gonna teach her a lesson she’ll never forget.”

She jumped and, using Rufus for support, kicked Hooch in the face.  She never saw him hit the ground though.  Rufus knocked her into a kitchen chair and she tumbled to the floor.

He was atop her the next instant holding both arms above her head and she gagged from his foul body odor.

“Looks like I’ll be gittin’ the first go.”  Straddling her, he wedged a knee between her thighs widening her legs.

Stay calm!  Think!

When he released her wrists to unbuckle his gun belt, she saw the revolver’s handle faced her.  She snatched it from the holster.  He grabbed the barrel the same instant she pulled the trigger.  The bullet tore through his thigh; blood and flesh splattered.

First of all, I like the short sentences, small bits of dialogue, and the brief, rapidly moving flow of the action. That said, a few tweaks could make this scene stronger.

The descriptions could be more specific without making them longer.  For example, in the sentence Beth put up her hands, ready to defend herself, if the visual is clearer, the reader will picture Beth with her fists at her chin, and the second part of the sentence (ready to defend herself) becomes unnecessary.  The reader will know what she’s doing from her actions.  Another phrase that could use a bit more visual oomph, Rufus made a move for her. Here’s a good place for a verb with more punch:  lunged, dove, reached. etc.

Let’s look at another paragraph:

He charged, an outstretched arm speeding its way to her throat. LIKE THIS!

A hard, swift kick to his shin and a simultaneous parry of his arm caused his hand to miss its intended target. (I HATE THE WORD “CAUSED”.  BREAK THIS UP INTO TWO SHORT SNAPPY SENTENCES THAT SHOW ACTION FOLLOWED BY REACTION) Without missing a beat (THIS PHRASE ISN’T NECESSARY) she stepped in so they were calf to calf intending to take him down with a leg sweep.  But his size and strength made it impossible to move him. THIS FEELS DISTANT.  HAVE HER ACTUALLY TRY TO SWEEP HIS LEG AND TELL US WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BETH.  He punched her face and threw her against the wall. THE READER NEEDS TO EXPERIENCE THE BLOW WITH BETH. WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE WHEN HE PUNCHES HER IN THE FACE?

I absolutely love the end.  There’s nothing better than a scuzbag villain getting what he deserves. Yeah, Beth!

–Melinda

The scene is good. You keep the pace moving with the short sentences. The movement of the characters is well choreographed. You’ve created a very vivid picture of these two characters facing off.

The one thing that really jumps off the page at me is the lack of emotion from Beth. I assume this scene is supposed to be from Beth’s POV so let me, the reader, into her head. How does she feel about having to face off against this big oaf? How is the surge of adrenalin pumping through her making her feel? Is she scared? Is she a little cocky, confident she can take that guy? As a reader the only person that I’m getting any emotion from is the villain. He’s clearly enjoying himself.

Also I need to be grounded in the scene a little more. I’m not sure where this fight is taking place. A bit more description of that would be great. Perhaps the character can be examining the room for things she can use as a weapon and at the same time giving us the lay of the land.

Rayna Vause

I agree with Melinda and Rayna’s critiques. I’ll add that while the sentence length helps create fast-paced action, the sentence structure is repetitive. Noun verb. Noun verb. For example: He took a step. Beth didn’t move. He laughed. Hooch jumped. Etc. Try varying your sentences.  Also, try to show more and tell less. Let the reader experience what your POV (Point of View) character is experiencing. You do show the heroine’s strength by standing her ground and fighting these men, however, adding a little more emotion will make the reader sympathize with her and root for her victory.

I love that she shot the villain with his own gun. You go, Beth!  Good luck with your writing.

~KM Fawcett

Dear readers, if you found this critique helpful and would like to see more in the future, please let us know in the comments section.  If you have any constructive feedback to offer Anonymous, please be sure to add your polite response below.

Calling to Action…All Writers

Are you struggling with your action scene? Perhaps you’re having a problem with pacing, power words, fight choreography or something else. Wouldn’t it be nice to get some feedback? The ladies at Attacking the Page want to critique YOUR work for free! Send us your action scene (of no more than 500 words) and we will choose one submission from the entries to post on the blog along with our critique. WARNING: If you don’t want your work posted for the world to see, DO NOT submit.

And now for the rules…

  • You have from now until 12:00 midnight EST on Thursday, February 10, 2011 to email us your submission.  DO NOT post in the comments section.
  • Send your unpublished fight/action scene (500 words or less) in the body of an email to attackingtp@gmail.com include “Action Critique” in the subject heading.
  • Please include your name (or pseudonym) as well as the genre of your work.
  • We will pick ONE entry for critique.
  • The chosen entry and our feedback will be posted to the blog on Thursday, February 17.

Please be aware the critiques offered by the authors of Attacking the Page are personal opinions and neither guarantee publication, nor are responsible for any rejections you may receive.  As with any critique you receive, take what works for you and dump the rest.

We encourage you to spread the word to your writing buddies, friends and even your enemies.  🙂   Good Luck!

~ KM Fawcett